Life has a pulse to it, a rhythm. I’m analyzing writing by autistic authors in terms of linguistic features so as to establish the validity of such a thing as an “autistic voice” in writing. There are features, in our speech, such as intense metaphor and frequent neologisms that pop up in our writing too. Whereas researchers frequently describe the traits as “barriers” to successful communication, I find that, in writing, they’re little explosions of creativity.
Autistic writing creates an unusual prosody. My autistic life has an unusual prosody all its own, I would argue, but these days, the prosody is monotone… but it’s monotone in a way that is so beautiful so as to be endlessly pleasurable.
I write. My days are filled with writing, from sunup (which, I’ll give you, tends to be roughly around noon) until I peel my fingers from their home on the home row, force my eyelids closed until sleep takes me away. I write extensive research papers, like the one on autistic voice, and another on contributions to British abolition; I write emails to network with professionals I met at the conference; I wrote book proposals, because sooner or later, I need to buckle down and try to publish something; I write essays; I write book chapters, and blog posts, and poetry, and music, and if I need a break, I chat on Facebook. For several hours each day, I put my feet to the pavement and go on a purposeful-yet-ad-lib walk, despite the heat, despite the rain. Even there, I cannot escape the drive to write, and my journal is in my backpack, just in case. There is always a case.
I marvel at the fact that one person can be so full of emotion and experience and connection. At 25, I live at the intersection of gifted and gutted–at the place where I might and do hear, “You… wrote that?” and “How do you not know this?” within the span of two hours. I’ve got the basic life skills down; heck, I even took out my own loans for grad school. People often comment that “you wouldn’t know…” regarding the autism. For one thing, you may not know, which is why I’ll tell you– because it’s something I want people to know. Better you know now than in a moment of panic or social blunder, and better I tell you before you leave an encounter with your head spinning, wondering just what–who–how.– that girl can be that intense, day in and day out. All that aside, if you don’t know, then I don’t get to be who I am, which is a ball of quirks, sure, but also an advocate and a teacher. For all those reasons and more, it’s best that you know.
But even if you didn’t, if I didn’t tell you, you would begin to make up your own explanations. I’m a bit of a verbal Tasmanian Devil, at times. I spin webs of words about all sorts of subjects, sometimes because the subject requires extensive explanation, and other times simply because it’s fun. Often, my communication has multiple levels to it; I like to say things that are incredibly precise and yet not quite crystal clear, leaving room for interpretation based on your personal experiences. After a day with me, you would begin to wonder how one person can come up with the things that come out of my mouth, and yet be terrified of thunder and hot ovens and panic when she has to catch a ball. My gifts are real. So are my struggles.
After living for some time in a state of overload to the point that my verbal ability was overshadowed by my sensory processing confusion, I take great joy in the fact that, today, I can, more often than not, describe and explain my incredibly complex experiences of this world in a way that others can understand. I want to share them with parents, teachers, and professionals so that they can have positively, communicative interactions with the autistic people in their lives.
I believe the problem, these days, in my world, is far less about getting the autistic to speak than it is about getting her, for the love of all things good, to please. stop. talking.